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A New Book on Revelation

Back in 2012, I was asked to preach a series of sermons on the book of Revelation.  That turned into 48 lessons–and the Bible study adventure of a lifetime!

As I studied through the book, I discovered that most of what I had been taught about its contents was wrong.  It could be understood.  It did have meaning–both then and now.  And so I embarked on a quest to understand it as best as possible, and to take what I learned and make it understandable to others.

Since completing that series of sermons, I have had numerous requests to put them in print, both from the members here, as well as others who have read through the material.  In fact, people I don’t even know have emailed me, saying that other people (who I also have never met) told them that they needed to get my Revelation material.  It is both gratifying and humbling to know that the 48 sermon outlines I put together have been so well-received.  It is also a scary proposition, because while most people will say that (within certain parameters) the interpretation of Revelation doesn’t matter, I’ve seen more heated arguments over this topic than almost any other among some preachers.

Because of the continual encouragements to make this material available in a permanent format, I have been editing, reformatting, correcting, and expanding my detailed sermon outlines, and preparing them for publication.  It’s not complete yet, but it is getting there–and it looks like it will be well over 450 pages by the time it is done.

Here is what others have said about this material:

I’ve studied the Bible for over fifty years, and this is the first time Revelation has ever made sense to me.–A long time Bible teacher.

I can’t believe I didn’t see this before.  You’ve made it so clear and easy to understand.–An elder.

Awesome.  Just awesome.–Another elder.

If you want to understand Revelation, talk to Bradley Cobb–Michael Shank

[Your] ability to rightly divide the Word of truth never ceases to amaze me.  How can your points be argued, debated, refuted, discredited, minimized?  They can’t be!–A well-know preacher and author.

The material you have online has been a great help to me in my studies.–A long-time preacher.

We need to get this material out in the brotherhood–it makes it so easy to understand!–Shane Otts, preacher, Judsonia church of Christ.

Our target release date is Monday, October 10th.

The Roller-Coaster of Faith – The Life of the Apostle Peter (Part Ten)

ApostlesLogo
The Denials at the Trials1

Peter couldn’t stay away.  Both he and John had a change of heart, and turned back to follow the mob.  Peter followed at a distance, while John went ahead and rejoined Jesus.2  Peter couldn’t get into the palace of the high priest on his own, so John came back out and talked to the girl who served as a doorkeeper, and convinced her to let Peter in.3  But soon afterwards, she said, “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples, are you?”  And Peter said, “I’m not.”4

After a little while had passed, another girl saw Peter, and told the men around him that “This man is one of them.”5  One of those men (the others being in agreement) then made the accusation at Peter, who replied, “Man, I’m not.”6

About an hour later, a servant of the high priest who was also a relative of Malchus (whose ear Peter had cut off) confidently said, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with Him?  Truly you were also with Him: for you are a Galilean, and your speech betrays you!”7  After this eyewitness accuses him, Peter denies loudly and vehemently, “Man, I don’t know what you’re saying! I don’t know the man you’re speaking of,”8 and he cursed and swore to emphasize the point9—as he lied to them.

This is all happening as Jesus is being questioned, mocked, and abused by the Sanhedrin.  False witnesses all came to speak against Him10—what was Peter thinking during this time?  Did he ever have to fight the urge to stand up and scream, “They’re lying!”?  Peter saw Jesus being beaten, slapped, and spat upon,11 but didn’t stand up for the Lord—instead, he hurt Him further by denying Him.  As Peter made his final denial, Jesus turned, momentarily ignoring the questioning and accusations He was enduring, and looked at Peter.  Then the weight of what Peter had done came crashing down on him, and he remembered how bold he had been, proclaiming how he would never deny Jesus; and remembering how Jesus had foretold that he would deny Him three times—then Peter went out of the palace and wept bitterly.12

It is possible that this was the last time Peter saw Jesus alive—until after the resurrection, that is.13

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 John’s account (chapter 18) shows that Peter’s first denial took place when Jesus was being tried by Annas, while his final denial took place when Jesus was being tried by Caiaphas.

2 Luke 22:54 shows Peter followed from a distance.  This is no surprise, considering he had just sliced off the ear of one of the servants of the high priest—he was curious, but also fearful for his own safety.  Meanwhile, John 18:15 shows that by the time Jesus entered the palace of the high priest, John accompanied Him.

3 John 18:16.

4 John 18:17.  Robertson and Vincent both point out that the question is phrased in such a way that the girl expected a negative answer.  Vincent gives it as “thou art not, art thou?”  Luke’s account (Luke 22:55-57) shows that Peter had already sat down by the fire inside before the girl came and asked him this question.

5 Mark 14:69.

6 Luke 22:58 shows one man making the accusation, while John 18:25 shows that there was a group of men who asked if he was one of Jesus’ disciples.

7 The first part of this quotation comes from John 18:26, while the second can be found in the other three gospel accounts: Matthew 26:73; Mark 14:70; Luke 22:59.

8 The quotation given here is an amalgamation of Luke 22:60 and Mark 14:71.

9 Matthew and Mark both mention Peter’s cursing and swearing.  Some confusion exists regarding what exactly this is.  Some have said that it is basically cussing—as no one who was truly a follower of Jesus would be seen publicly cussing.  Others have said that these were oaths: that Peter was calling down curses on himself if he was lying, vowing to God that he was telling the truth.  Either explanation shows the great lengths that Peter went to in order to convince people that he wasn’t associated with Jesus—which was far worse than Judas’ betrayal.

10 Mark 14:56-59.

11 Mark 14:65.

12 Luke 22:60-62.  Luke is the only one who mentions that Jesus actually looked at Peter after the third denial.  Their eyes must have met, and Jesus almost assuredly showed a look of disappointment.

13 This is the last time Peter is mentioned until after the resurrection.  It is possible that he came and watched Jesus on the cross from afar, but if he did, none of the gospel writers saw fit to mention it.  It’s possible that he couldn’t bear to let Jesus see him again, out of shame, and that he found the rest of the apostles and stayed with them (except for John, who was at the cross).

Be Nice…

a.k.a. “How to Have a Great Marriage (part five)”

If You Love Me, You’ll Be Nice to Me

Love is kind (I Corinthians 13:4).

Kindness is one of those things that can be hard to define, but you know it when you see it.  It’s being friendly. It’s smiling. It’s showing someone that you are interested in them as a person. It’s taking time to be there for them and lending a helping hand. It’s taking the time to listen to what they have to say. Not just sitting there while they’re talking, but actually listening.

Kindness is not these things:

  • yelling at someone.
  • being mean.
  • treating them like they’re worthless.

In order to have a great marriage, a God-honoring marriage, you must be kind to your spouse.  You want your spouse to be nice to you, right? You don’t want a mean husband or a cantankerous wife. So, you be the kind spouse YOU are supposed to be.

You have no right to tell your wife to be kind to you if you’re a jerk to her. And vice versa.

Some husbands ignore their wives–not paying attention to what they say, not paying attention to what they need. In short, they aren’t being kind to their wives, and they need to repent.

Kindness means you give your spouse a smile. Kindness means you stop what you’re doing and listen to her when she needs to talk. Kindness means you listen to him talk about sports, even if it’s more boring than reading stereo instructions. Again, it’s not just being quiet; it’s actually listening to them.

You have to show your spouse that you care.

Get out your steel-toed boots, because it’s toe-stomping time! Let’s notice how God put this together.  Love is patient and is kind (I Corinthians 13:4). He connected these two.

When your spouse does something you don’t like, you’re supposed to be patient with them. And you’re supposed to be kind to them.

Do you realize what this means? This means, even when you’re mad at your husband, you don’t yell at him. You don’t scream at him. You don’t ignore him. You don’t treat him like he’s scum. You don’t make out like he’s the most horrible thing since moldy bread. You don’t decide it’s a good time to bring up all of his past mistakes.

This means when you’re upset with your wife, you don’t insult her. You don’t yell at her. You don’t throw things. You don’t berate her. You don’t say things like “you never do this,” or “you ALWAYS do that.” You don’t start bossing her around.

And—whether you’re the husband or the wife—DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT say, “If you REALLY loved me, you wouldn’t do that.” That’s an emotional attack and an insult to them, and it is NOT showing love or kindness or patience when you say it.

Instead, you treat your spouse with kindness—even when they’ve messed up.

The question now comes up, what if your spouse has stopped trying? What if your spouse has shown over a period of time WITHOUT QUESTION that he/she doesn’t care? That they think you’re unimportant? That they think you’re not worth trying for?  Are you still expected to be patient and kind to them then?

And the answer is this: the Bible says to love one another. It’s a command. It doesn’t say, “Love one another so long as it’s convenient.” It doesn’t say “love one another so long as that person is trying”. It says “Love one another” PERIOD.

So, since we are commanded to love one another, we must be patient with our spouse.  Since we’re commanded to love one another, we must be kind to our spouse. ALL the time, not just when it suits us.

Because, let’s be honest. Yelling and being mean isn’t going to get anyone to change.

If you want your spouse to change, I guarantee you that yelling, screaming, berating, or being mean is NOT going to get it done. But patience and kindness can.  They are much more powerful than anger.  “God has called us to peace. For what do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, oh man, whether you will save your wife?” (I Corinthians 7:15-16).

If you REALLY love me, you’ll be kind.  Because love is kind.

Putting It Into Practice

Now if you put your boots away, get ’em back out because here is where it REALLY starts to hurt.

You’re in the middle of a head-butting session with your spouse. They’re being unreasonable. They’re being hard-headed. And you’re ready to just put them in their place, Bible-style! So, you open up your mouth and say, “Hey, the Bible says that if you love me, you’ll be kind!”

And you know that will completely fix things immediately. Your spouse will stop and look at you and with a bright sincere smile on their face say, “you’re right. I’m sorry. I should never have been fighting with you.” I hope you’ve caught the sarcasm there.

No, that’s nothing more than using your own bad attitude to attack someone else.

Instead, you need to talk to yourself (you’re the only one you can control) and say, If I really love her/him, I’ll be kind.  If I really love her/him, I’ll be patient.

See, they’ll have to answer for their own attitude problems. You have to control what YOU are doing.

If you REALLY love me, you’d be patient and kind to me. That is 100% true. But you must first start with the log sticking out of your own eye and admit, “If I REALLY love you, I’ll be patient and kind to you.”

YOU need to be the one to start. YOU need to be the one to take the first step. YOU need to be the one who shows patience and kindness—because if you don’t, it means you don’t really love them.

Love is patient. Love is kind.

Think about it.  It’s worth the effort.

Pre-Requisites for a God-Approved Marriage

In this messed up country that we live in, people have confused the topic of marriage to the point where no one seems to know what marriage even means! Just look at some of the definitions that people give for marriage:

  • It’s a man and a woman who commit in a civil ceremony to live together and share last names until they decide they don’t want to anymore.
  • It’s two people (gender doesn’t matter) who commit in a legally-binding civil ceremony to live together until they decide they don’t want to anymore.
  • It’s a man and however many women he wants, joined in religiously-binding ceremonies to live together as man and wives until death.
  • And of course, there are variations on each of these.

Some are already pushing for marriage to animals, marriage with multiple men and women all joined in one blob of a family unit, and who knows what else!

Though the people here on planet earth might be confused, God isn’t. God knows exactly what marriage is, and what it isn’t. And if we bother to look at the Bible, we can have the same knowledge.

This is the first in a series on marriage, and deals with the question of “What is required for God to approve or recognize a marriage?”

A God-Ordained Marriage Requires a Man and a Woman.

In the beginning, God created a male and a female (Genesis 1:27-28). Adam and Eve were the first married couple. In fact, if you go through the entire Old Testament, you will never—not once—see an instance of a man being married to another man or a woman being married to another woman. In the Old Testament, marriage is ALWAYS, 100% of the time, when a man is married to a woman.

But let’s go to the New Testament and see what Jesus has to say about it.

I want you to look carefully at just how many times Jesus shows what He thinks about marriage in Matthew 19:4-9.

  • And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female [MALE AND FEMALE, did you catch that?]
  • and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife [A MAN SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE—male and female]
  • and they two shall be one flesh [Which two? A man and his wife—not a man and his husband or a woman and her wife, but a man and his wife]
  • Therefore they are no more two, but one flesh [Who is the “they”? A man and a woman! Only a man and his wife are authorized by God to be one flesh].
  • What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder [God only joins male and female, the only marriage recognized by God is a man and his wife].
  • And I say unto you, Whoever shall put away his wife [HIS wife. Not HER wife, but HIS wife. Again, only a male and female!], except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and whoso marries her which is put away does commit adultery.

Six times in those few verses, Jesus makes it clear that the only marriage recognized by God is between a man and a woman.

Therefore, in order to have a God-ordained marriage, there must first be a man and a woman—and ONLY a man and a woman. Not two males. Not two females. Not one human and one animal.

A God-Ordained Marriage Requires Eligibility.

Some people are not eligible to be married, and thus any marriage involving these people is not ordained (approved) by God.

Children are not eligible to be married. One of the commands given to the first married couple was to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:27). This absolutely rules out anyone who is not old enough to bear children. It is noteworthy that every instance of marriage in the Bible uses the term man (as in, adult male) and woman (as in adult female). Of course, when someone becomes an adult can be debated, but there can be no doubt that a 10-year old is not eligible to be married.

Mentally incapable people are not eligible to be married. The Bible commands that husbands “love” their wives, as in make a conscious decision to put the wife’s needs above his own (Colossians 3:19). The Bible commands wives to reverence their husbands (Ephesians 5:33). Some people are mentally handicapped to the point that they are incapable of following God’s commands for marriage. If it is physically impossible for the person to follow God’s marriage laws, then that person is not eligible to be in a God-ordained marriage.

Already-married people are not eligible to be married again. If someone is already in a marriage, they cannot get married to someone else as well. I know what you’re thinking. “But what about polygamy in the Old Testament?” Yes, God tolerated it, but it was not His plan. After all, Jesus said that from the beginning, it was “they TWO shall become one flesh,” and that the husband should cling to his WIFE (singular). Under the New Testament, the Bible is clear—each woman shall have her own husband (singular), and each man shall have his own wife (singular)—I Corinthians 7:2. Polygamy is a violation of the New Testament and is not authorized by God.

When someone who is married is widowed—that is, when that person’s spouse dies—that person is indeed eligible to marry again (I Corinthians 7:1).

Those who have divorced for a reason other than fornication are not eligible to be married. Jesus said, “Whoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another commits adultery (Matthew 19:9). And we all know that adultery is something condemned by God (Galatians 5:19-21). That means that unless a person got a divorce because his spouse was cheating on him, he is not eligible to be married to anyone else. The only divorced people who are eligible to be married are: (1) Those who divorced their spouse because they were being cheated on (Matthew 19:9). Or (2) those who wish to marry the one that they had been married to in the first place (I Corinthians 7:11).

Some Things that are NOT a Pre-Requisite for a God-Ordained Marriage.

Being in love. While it’s not a bad thing to really enjoy the company of the person you want to marry, it’s not a requirement for a God-ordained marriage. In many cultures, the marriages are arranged by the parents. I can imagine that most of the younger people find that idea repulsive. But guess what, it’s biblical!

I Corinthians 7:36-38, NASB – But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry. But he who stands firm in his heart, being under no constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin daughter, he will do well. So then both he who gives his own virgin daughter in marriage does well, and he who does not give her in marriage will do better.

According to the Bible, whether or not a girl gets married (and to whom) is up to her father. That’s why we have the custom of the man asking the father for permission to marry the daughter. That’s why, in a wedding ceremony, the preacher asks, “who gives this girl to be married?” You’d better keep that in mind before you decide to announce to your parents that you’re getting married.

A man named Doka Obadiah, from Kenya, told me that his friends picked out a girl they thought he’d like, and then he went to the father and bought her for the hefty price of a cow and four bushels of corn. There was no “being in love” first. No dating first. Just an agreement between the man and the father, and a commitment to be the husband God wants him to be. And they are happily married and working in God’s kingdom there in Kenya.

Dating. It sounds strange to Americans, but dating isn’t required in order to get married. In fact, dating is never once mentioned in the Bible.

Physical attraction. Just like the whole “being in love” thing, it’s nice to have a physical attraction to the person you’re going to marry, but the Bible nowhere makes that a requirement.

Conclusion:

Marriage is a wonderful thing, created by God. But it has been abused and misused and twisted by people who don’t respect His word. God has created specific parameters for who can be married, and if we have any desire whatsoever to go to heaven, we will stay within them.

God didn’t create these rules arbitrarily. No, in fact, these rules are there for our own well-being. If everyone just stuck with God’s rules on marriage, the divorce rate would fall to zero, and people would have happy marriages.

-Bradley Cobb

Bible Q&A – Non-Created Things?

Question: The Bible says that Jesus made everything that was created. Does that mean that there are things that exist which weren’t created? – J.C., Oklahoma.

First, I want to thank you for taking the time to write to us. It means a lot and we appreciate it.

The Bible does indeed teach that Jesus created everything that was created. John 1:1-3 says:

In the beginning was the Word [Jesus, see verse 14], and the Word was with God, and the word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him [there] was not anything made that was made.

This passage is very explicit. If something/someone was created, Jesus is the one who created it. ZERO exceptions.

The Bible also teaches that there are things which exist that were not created. That means there are things which exist that are eternal. They have no beginning.

The first one that probably pops in your mind is God. God is eternal, with no beginning. He was not created. His very name Jehovah means “the ever existing one.” The Scriptures teach us that God is the one who created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1, Job 38:4). He is the Creator, not the creation.

Because of what John says about Jesus (see the verses above), we can know with 100% certainty that Jesus was not created, for He created everything that was created. If, as some people claim, Jesus was created, then the Scriptures make no sense by claiming that Jesus created Himself. That is an absolute absurdity. Jesus is eternal.

Because the Holy Spirit is also “God,” or a part of the Godhead, we can know that He is also eternal. He was present before God said “let there be light” (see Genesis 1:2-3), and therefore existed before creation took place.

Are there other things/beings that might fall under the “not-created” category? There are no clear, unambiguous statements in Scripture that would allow us to say that with absolute certainty. However, there are some who believe that angels are eternal (since they appear to be present when God began the creation—Job 38:4-7). It is also not uncommon to find those who believe that Satan is also eternal, since there is no mention of his being created, and Jesus said that he existed “from the beginning” (John 8:44, I John 3:8).

So, to answer your question: Yes, there are some things/beings which were not created. They are eternal. Among them (for certain) is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Whether any other things/beings also fit under this heading is a matter of supposition which—though it may be true—lacks a clear statement of Scripture to prove it.

-Bradley S. Cobb

The Story of Victor Cross–International Missionary (part 2)

See part 1 here

Victor Cross has left the church.  He has no intentions of ever going back.  He’s incredibly cynical and jaded because of the way he’d been treated by some preacher.  But let’s fast-forward a couple decades.

Victor has been without the grace of God for twenty years, despite his wife’s best efforts to encourage him to come back.  One day, as providence would have it, Victor met a couple men.  These men were kind, sincere, and godly.  They also happened to be elders in the church.  After learning Victor’s story, they said they understood why he would make that decision, from a human standpoint.  But they also encouraged Victor, and told him, “Don’t give up on Jesus just because someone else treated you that way.  Jesus didn’t do that to you.”

And Victor came back to the Lord.

His desire to work for Jesus came back fiercer than ever before.  And in his very first prayer after coming back to Christ, Victor uttered these words: “Lord, make me a fisher of men.”

Because Victor knew that he had to help be the answer to his own prayer, he began to study the Bible, and collected a modest library.  He wanted to preach, but knew that he would also need to work a “regular” job to pay the bills.  He bought a film projector and a set of filmstrips, and showed them to anyone who would watch.

But again discouragement struck.  He tried many times to get people to take a Bible correspondence course, but every time he did, the same question was asked, “what denomination?”  He learned quickly that regardless of how he said it, as soon as the words “church of Christ” left his lips, the door was shut, and people’s minds became closed.

To be continued tomorrow…